Wallace Melvin Morgan.

History of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; online

. (page 17 of 177)
Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 17 of 177)
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his son Homer opened a blacksmith shop on the flat, the first wooden build-
ing on the present townsite. Charles Keehn opened the first store in the
town proper; Montgomery Brothers started a saloon, John Crawford started
another, and after that the arrivals were too rapid and numerous to be remem-

During the rush of 1896 Randsburg had its first experience of the dis-
order that belongs by tradition to new mining camps. "The Dirty Dozen,"
as the members of a gang of dry washers from an older camp chose to call
themselves, conceived the pleasant pastime of visiting Randsburg of even-
ings, making a rough house in the different saloons and finally promenading
the streets, firing their revolvers. As most of the houses in the camp had
onh' canvas walls and as the members of the Dirty Dozen were careless
in their aim there was a general protest which resulted in a mass meeting
on the porch of the Cliff house (hotel) and the organization of the Citizens'
committee. At first it was planned to make it a vigilante organization, but
soberer discussion resulted in the agreement that the disorders were not
grave enough for such means of repression, and "Ironsides" Raines was hired
to act as town marshal at a salary of $100 per month. A number of citizens
were made deputy constables without pay. Personal notice was served on
all the known members of the Dirty Dozen that their visits could be dispensed
with, and a notice in the following words was posted in the streets :

The Citizens of Randsburg have organized to enforce the laws. Ten
Deputy Constables have been appointed, and any riotous and threat-
ening conduct will be punished,
by order of the

There was no further disorder. At least there was no further general
menace to life or limb, although for some time afterward the diversions of
the miners that assembled in the desert camp differed somewhat from those
of a Sunday-school picnic.

At the present time there is more genuine, profitable mining going on
in the Randsburg district than at any other time since the camp was estab-
lished. All the mines named heretofore are worked with profit, and in addi-
tion the King Solomon, Sunshine and Pierced are yielding good returns to
their owners. Mooers of the Yellow Aster is dead, but his heirs and his
original partners, Burcham and Singleton, still own the mine and are taking
out about 600 tons of $.S ore per day.

Discovery of Tungsten Mines
About ten years ago, during the progress of a strike of union miners at
the Yellow Aster, Charles Taylor, one of the strikers, and Tom McCarthy
went prospecting and discovered the afterward famous tungsten mines of
Randsburg district. It soon developed that the tungsten deposits were among
the largest and most accessible in the world, and the quality was excep-


tionally good. Somewhere between two million and three million dollars
worth of the mineral have been taken out, and the mines are but fairly
opened up.

The Mojave mines were discovered about the time of the first Rands-
burg rush or a few months later. The Queen Esther, Carmel, Golden Treas-
ure and other mines of Mojave are celebrated producers, but the district
never attained the fame that was accorded to Randsburg.

The Amalie District

Among the more important of the recent mining op.erations in the
county are those about Amalie, a short distance above Caliente on the north-
ern side of the Tehachapi pass. The Amalie mines carry both silver and
gold, and with depth the ledges improve greatly. The Gold Peak, Amalie
and other less celebrated mines of that vicinity have passed the stage of
experiment and are reckoned as certain producers in the hands of competent
management. Mining men familiar with the district prophesy that the future
will see Amalie recognized as one of the most important mining sections
of the state.

Other Important Events

Other matters that lend a special interest to the busy and eventful period
in Kern county's history about the years of 1890 to 1900 include the building
of the electric light, gas and street railway systems of Bakersfield, the begin-
ning of the utilization of the waters of Kern river for the development of
electric power, discovery and development of the desert mines, the local
phases of the great railroad strike of 1894, the visit of the Oakland contingent
of Coxey's army, the second incorporation of Bakersfield and the issuance of
the celebrated Shaw decree, by which theUerms of the Miller-Haggin agree-
ment were given a semblance, at least, of judicial authority.

Gas and Electric Plants

The first gas plant was built and operated by L. P. St. Clair, Sr., and
O. O. Mattson about the first part of 1889. Later H. A. Blodget and H. A.
Jastro bought out Mattson's interest. The first plant was a crude affair
comprising eight retorts, and the gas was manufactured from gasoline. In
summer it was too rich, and in winter it was too thin for perfectly satis-
factory use. During the summer of 1889, it is recalled, a big bellows was
used to pump air into the holders to reduce the quality of the gas and pre-
vent its smoking by reason of an excess of carbon. In the fall of 1889 the
plant was changed to use coal instead of gasoline. The use of crude oil in
the manufacture of gas was begun in 1896 and 1897, and continued to
the fall of 1911, when natural gas from the great gas wells of the Standard
Oil Company in the Buena Vista hills was turned into the mains.

It was not long after the gas plant was established that electric lighting
began to gain greatly in popularity, and outside parties visited BakersSeld
with a view to obtaining a franchise for an electric lighting system. They
failed to get the franchise, but their visit spurred the local lighting com-
pany into action, and electricity was added to gas as a means of illumina-
tion in the city. In the spring of 1890 a 40-light dynamo was installed and
a wood-burning steam engine was utilized to furnish power. The limita-
tions of wood-generated steam and the advantages of water power in the
generation of electricity were speedily recognized, and for a time a plan
for using water power from the mill ditch was entertained. The fact that


it is necessary to dry out the ditch occasionally for cleaning and repairs
stood in the way of this plan, and the idea of maintaining a steam auxiliary
plant for use when the ditch was out of commission did not appeal to the
electric company.

It was the natural thing to turn to Kern river caiion as a source of
power, and the plans for the first power plant built there were drawn by
Blodget, Jastro, W. S. Tevis. S. ^V. Fergusson and C. N. Beale. The first
intention was to interest eastern capital in the enterprise, but when it was
mentioned to Lloyd Tevis he said that he would take it up himself, and
did so. Work was begun December 13, 1894, building the flume along the
wall of the cafion to carry the water from the intake up the canon to the
water wheel at the caiion's mouth where the present power house is located.
The wooden flume first used to convey the water was later replaced by a
tunnel driven in the rock of the cafion wall.

First Street Railway

The first street railway sj'stem was established about the same time
as the gas plant. John Al. Keith and H. A. Blodget were the originators of
the project, and they called in H. H. Fish, who was operating a line of hacks
and omnibuses and whose co-operation instead of competition was desirable.
Fish went into the street car plan and Keith withdrew. The first equipment
of rolling stock consisted of little horse cars, and one of the diversions of-
fered the passengers was to help put the cars back on the track once in
a while when the unaccustomed street car nags would get scared at some-
thing and bolt off at a tangent from the rails.

With the building of the power plant in the canon (finished in 1897)
the horse car system was supplanted by electric cars and C. N. Beale joined
with Fish and Blodget in the enterprise. Six or eight years later the Power,
Transit & Light Company was organized as a subsidiary corporation of
the Kern County Land Company, and the street car, gas and electric light-
ing systems were taken over by it. In 1911 the San Joaquin Light & Power
Corporation bought out the Power, Transit & Light Company. Meantime,
in 1897, the Electric Water Company, also a Land Company corporation,
bought the Scribner Water \\'orks and extended the system to meet the
growing needs of the city.

The First Levee Canal

What is known as the levee canal, built a little distance south of Kern
river from the Kern Island canal near Panorama heights southwest to the
Stine canal, was constructed in the summer of 1890. On May 8th a sub-
scription paper was circulated for the purpose of raising money to buy land
for a right of way and for building the levee, and the following subscrip-
tions were secured: W. B. Carr, $500; Celsus Brower, L. S. Rogers, H. C.
Park, H. A. Jastro, H. A. Blodget, W. H. Scribner, J. Neiderauer, Dinkel-
spiel Brothers, Joseph Weringer, Solomon Jewett, Kern Valley Bank, A. C.
Maude and J. E. Bailey, each $100; Paul Galtes, A. Weill and Hirshfeld and
Brodek, each $150; C. L. Connor and Alex Mills (not the ancient marshal),
each $50.

The right of way, however, was purchased by the county from Haggin
& Carr for $4500, the deed being made on July 15, 1890. The levee canal
was built along the right of way, and the dirt was thrown mostly on the
side of the ditch next to the river so as to make an embankment sufficient


to restrain any ordinary high water. This levee broke toward the north
end at the time of the flood of 1893, and since then has been strengthened,
a little dirt and sand being added whenever the river became threateningly

Ever since the first levee was built periodic movements have been started
looking to the construction of an embankment that would permanently dis-
pose of all possibility of the river getting into the town, but with the sub-
sidence of the freshets the interest in the plans wane and only the inci-
dental repairs and improvements mentioned have been made. The latest
project for levee building includes the construction of a boulevard along
the top of the proposed embankment, connecting with Oak street on the
west and mounting Panorama heights on the east and connecting thence
by Baker street and Truxtun avenue with the southern end of Oak street
and forming a complete driveway around the northern half of the city.
This project has been lingering in statu quo for several months past, but
has not been definitely abandoned.

The Great Railway Strike

The great strike of the American Railway Union which began Thursday,
June 28, 1894, affected Bakersfield and Kern about as it affected any other
railroad division point. There was much excitement during the first few
days of the tie-up, and on July 12th, two hundred men met at Reich opera
house, which stood just across Jap alley from Weill's store, and organized
the Citizens' committee of safety. S. W. Wible acted as chairman, and
after the adoption of resolutions and a prayer by Rev. Henry, fifty men
signed the roll as volunteer home guards, took the oath to support the con-
stitution and pledged themselves to guard duty in case Company G of the
National Guard were ordered away from town and their services were
required. Officers were elected as follows: captain, F. S. Rice; lieutenants,
G. K. Ober and C. A. Maul ; sergeants, John O. Miller, G. L. DiUman, C. Von
Petersdorf, Leo F. Winchell and H. C. Park; corporals, H. F. Condict, W.
Lowell, A. W. Storms and R. M. Walker.

The committee of safety, however, was never called upon for active
duty. Before the guards were organized the railroad men had established a
patrol of their own under the informal but recognized leadership of Parker
Barrett (then a conductor, but later one of the owners of the world-famous
Lakeview oil gusher), and generally the best of order prevailed among the
strikers. Following the meeting at Reich opera house the A. R. U. repre-
sentatives called a mass meeting at Athletic park, at the southeast corner of
Nineteenth street and Union avenue, where about four hundred people were
addressed by three or four speakers and where long resolutions were

Bakersfield did not go hungry because of the strike, but a large part
of it went thirsty or drank warm beverages. Most of the ice used in the city
was shipped here from Truckee in those days, and except in the case of
E. Downing's candy store the supplies were all small when the tie-up of the
railroad began. When the saloons were out of ice they were nearly out of
business, for few people would drink warm beer in July. Downing had
3000 pounds of ice when the strike began, and for a time his soda water
fountain was the most popular place in Bakersfield. Finally the stock of ice
was reduced to 700 pounds, and Downing hung the closed sign on the front
of the fountain. "The rest of it is for the sick folks," he explained, and after


that anyone who could show that he was sick got ice from Downing for
nothing. Nobody else could get it at all.

Coxey's Army Comes and Goes

On June 7, 1894, what was known as the Oakland contingent of Coxey's
Industrial Army arrived in Bakersfield on its way to Washington to join in
the celebrated protest which ended in the "army" being ordered off the
White House grass. For a time the supervisors entertained the army at the
Reich opera house and later they were kept in a stockade built back of the
jail. Even the latter accommodations were expensive to maintain, however,
and the supervisors held a conference with Division Superintendent Burk-
halter of the Southern Pacific with the result that a special train consisting
in large part of stock cars was ordered, and the whole army was loaded aboard
and headed for the south. Chairman Jastro of the supervisors and some
of the railroad officials accompanied the army to Mojave, where they were
landed in the midst of a blinding sandstorm. The army would have eaten
Mojave out of house and home in a day's time, and to leave it there was out
of the question. So Jastro and the Southern Pacific men called the leaders
into consultation. "What you people want," they put it, "is to get east as
quickly as possible. Now the Santa Fe is the shortest and fastest line from
this coast (think of the S. P. men saying that) and what you want to do is
just to confiscate the first Santa Fe train that comes along and take yourselves
east with it."

It looked like a good plan to the army officers, and they proceeded to
carry it out. Then a telegram was sent to Los Angeles, and a light engine
loaded with United States deputy marshals ran out, headed off the stolen
Santa Fe train at Barstow and carried the whole army back to Los Angeles
under arrest, for the Santa Fe was in the hands of a receiver at the time
and so under government authority.

Twin Towns Incorporate

With all these movements for the progress and improvement of Bakers-
field under way the re-incorporation of the town was inevitable. Kern, the
lesser of the twin towns, not half so populous as Bakersfield, had been incor-
porated. But a large element of the voters in Bakersfield opposed incor-
poration, and when, in December, 1896, the question was submitted after a
long period of agitation, it was voted down by 268 to 197. In January, 1898,
a second election was held, and the proposition won by 387 to 146. The
vote by precincts was as follows:

Number 1 — For, 121 ; against, 30.

Number 2 — For, 74; against, 15.

Number 3 — For, 43 ; against, 44.

Number 4— For, 70; against, 39.

Number 5 — For, 79; against, 18.

The first officers elected were: Trustees, Paul Galtes, L. P. St. Clair,
Sr., H. H. Fish, W. R. Macniurdo, J. Walters ; board of education, J. A.
Baker, Celsus Brower, O. D. Fish, F. S. Rice, E. P. Davis; assessor, H. F.
Condict; marshal, T. A. Baker; treasurer, O. O. Mattson ; attorney, S. N.
Reed ; clerk, A. T. Lightner.

Bakersfield was incorporated as a city of the lifth class, taking the charter
provided by state law for such cities, and the same charter is in effect still,
although Bakersfield and Kern have since been consolidated and the com-


bined population is far in excess of the number required for a city of the
fourth class.

Company G Responds to Duty

On May 8, 1898, Bakersfield proudly dispatched its first company of citi-
zen soldiery to the defense of the state. Company G, National Guard, was
ordered to San Francisco to do garrison duty at San Francisco during the
progress of the Spanish-American war, and although the men left the armory
at 5 a. m. they were greeted at the depot by a large body of citizens who gave
them a farewell breakfast and presented them with a handsome silk flag on
behalf of those who stayed at home. T. W. Lockhart made the speech of
presentation. Capt. W. H. Cook made an address in response. The roster
of the company was as follows :

Captain, W. H. Cook; second lieutenant, Lucien Beer; first sergeant,
B. A. Hayden ; second sergeant, H. C. Lechner ; third sergeant, K. C. Mastel-
ler; fourth sergeant, C. E. Harding; corporals, H. J. Haley, C. L. Dunn, J. G.
Broom, H. F. Stanley, C. R. Blodget, F. J. Downing and William Reddy;
privates, L. C. Moon (musician), A. H. Abram, I. Barnes, John Barnes,
W. Barnes, W. Barnhart, E. H. Bartley, J. L. Benoit, F. F. Blackington,
H. H. Borem, D. E. Brewer, A. Brundy, A. M. Cammack, E. H. Chandler,
A. S. Colton, E. R. Crane, A. S. Crites, G. S. Crites, F. W. Crocker, L. Cun-
ningham, J. R. Daly, T. E. Davis, E. Dixon, R. Dinwiddie, R. Durnal, A. R.
Elder, D. Fiedler, G. N. Frazier, R. Garner, W. G. Garrison, C. Colby, F.
Hamilton, W. C. Hewitt, E. A. Hicks, F. M. Hicks, W. F. Hunt, S. A.
Ice, G. H. Ingles, C. W. Kirk, Bert Kunkelman, O. P. Lindgren, E.
P. Munsey, F. N. Mills, H. R. McKenzie, W. Olds, C. H.
Ortte, J. H. Paulke, J. Pennington, W. H. Powers, Lynn Roberts, E. J. Ruddy,
J. Savage, J. Timson, I. W. Tucker, J. B. Ware, C. W. West, B. F. Whittom,
J. C. Ashby, C. W. Bollinger, E. Brodley, A. R. Shurtlefif, W. Lakin, C. Man-
ley, F. J. Kincaid, J. Manning.

News Notes, 1895 to 1900

August 29, 1895— J. B. Haggin had deeded to W. B. Carr all his right,
title and interest in 14,280 acres of swamp land in Kings county.

Letters from farmers and others published in the newspapers suggest
general farming as a solution of the troubles of the Rosedale colonists. Es-
pecially the farmers are urged to raise hogs.

October 10, 1895 — The Kern River Power Company is surveying for
its power generating plant on Kern river and for an electric transmission line
to Los Angeles.

November 14, 1895 — Mooers, Burcham and Singleton win in a suit attack-
ing their title to the Yellow Aster mine.

December, 1895 — W. S. Tevis settles with homesteaders on the Haggin
swamp lands near Buena Vista, giving them a year's rent free and paying
them for the improvements on the land.

Same date — Rights of way are being secured for the Valley railroad.

June 11, 1896 — The new court house is finished.

July 16, 1896 — An unsuccessful attempt is made to crack the vault in
the county treasurer's office.

July, 1896 — Silas Drouillard finds the St. Elmo mine in the Randsburg
district and names it for one of his partners, Elmo Pyle.

September 25, 1896— The contract is let for the Power, Transit & Light
Company's substation, and the machinery is ordered from Schenectady.

."'. T>


January 28, 1897 — The business of the Bakersfield post office for the
past year amounted to $74,000.

December, 1896 — The Bakersfield Creamery is established.

April 4, 1897 — The electric current is turned on from the power plant in
the canon, and the Kern County Land Company is preparing to use the elec-
tricity for pumping water at Stockdale, to run a cold storage plant at Bellevue,
and to drive the machinery in its shops in Bakersfield.

May 10, 1897 — W. B. Carr is found dead in his room in San Francisco
from asphixiation.

August, 1897 — The Kern County Land Company is constructing a
slaughter house and meat-packing establishment at Bellevue.

April, 1897 — The Bakersfield Labor Exchange is organized.

September 23, 1897 — The Land Company is laying pipes for a new water
system in Bakersfield.

October 28, 1897— S. C. Smith has secured the last deed for the right of
way for the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley railroad.

December, 1897 — H. E. Huntington says that the Southern Pacific is
willing to build a loop into Bakersfield and build a depot nearer the business
section. 148 citizens signed a petition asking W. S. Tevis to use his influence
to prevent the proposed loop and depot from being built.

May 12, 1898 — Company G of the National Guard goes to San Francisco
lor duty in the Spanish American war.

May 27, 1898 — The arrival of the Valley railroad is celebrated in Bakers-
field with a parade, floats, wild west show, speeches and fireworks.

July 14, 1898 — Fire, starting in the California theater, lays waste the
larger part of the business section of Kern city.

November, 1899 — The paving of the streets in the business section of the
city is in progress.

During October, 1899, 323 oil land locations were recorded in the county.

Bakersfield is soon to have free mail delivery.

Levee agitation is active.

\Y. S. Tevis and others make tender of sites for city parks, but all of
them are rejected for one reason or another.

January 12, 1900 — The corner stone of the Woman's Club Hall is laid.

January, 1900 — Oil land locators begin to have trouble with scrippers.

February, 1900 — The electric road between Bakersfield and Kern is soon
to be started.

March, 1900 — The Southern Pacific has begun the use of oil as fuel in its

March 16, 1900— Solomon Jewett, H. A. Blodget, L. P. St. Clair, C. N.
Beal and F. T. Whorfif incorporate the Sunset Railroad Company to build
a road to the Sunset oil fields where Jewett «& Blodget are largely interested
in development work.

March 26, 1900— Truxtun Beale presents to the city of Bakersfield a deed
to the Beale ]Memorial public library.


Development of Oil Fields

Ask the first man you meet on the streets of Bakersfield what gave the
town its great boost forward about the year 1900, and he is very likely to
answer that it was the discovery of the oil fields. Perhaps he will be more
specific and say the discovery of the Kern river oil field. In either case, how-
ever, he will be very far from the actual, historic truth as to the date of these
discoveries. Titus Fey Cronise's "The Natural Wealth of California," pub-
lished i,n 1868 by Bancroft & Company at San Francisco, states that from
Fort Tejon to Kern river, a distance of forty miles and extending out a
space of ten miles from the Coast range, the country is covered with salt
marshes, brine and petroleum springs. Petroleum and asphalt deposits, the
same authority continues, extend from San Emidio cafion to Buena Vista
lake (so named by the Spaniards in 1806) the main deposit being eighteen
miles southeast of the lake. At that place there was a spring of maltha
covering an acre in extent, the center of which was a viscid pool, agitated by
gas, and the outer edge of which was hardened into stony asphalt, full of the
bones of beasts. Works erected here, Cronise says, produced in 1864 several
thousand barrels of good oil, which was shipped to San Francisco. The
great cost of transportation prevented the enterprise from being a financial

About the same date R. M. Gilbert took a barrel of thick, tarry oil out of
an oil spring on tlie north bank of Kern river at the lower edge of the present
Kern river field and hauled it to Solomon Jewett's sheep ranch a few miles
up the river to mark the sheep with. On April 23, 1872, J. O. Lovejoy
deeded to the Buena Vista Petroleum Company all his right, title and interest
in a certificate of purchase dated April 3, 1872, for 640 acres in the northeast
quarter and the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section nineteen ;
the west half and the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter, the east half
and the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter and the southwest quarter
of the southeast quarter of section twenty, and the northeast quarter of sec-
tion twenty-nine, all in township thirty, south of range twenty-two. This

Online LibraryWallace Melvin MorganHistory of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; → online text (page 17 of 177)